Objectives Achievable Despite Pakistan Sanctuaries, General Says

WASHINGTON, Oct. 27, 2011 — Haqqani net­work sanc­tu­ar­ies in Pak­istan are a con­cern that can be over­come in meet­ing Afghanistan objec­tives in 2014, a senior Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force com­man­der told Pen­ta­gon reporters today.

Speak­ing via tele­con­fer­ence from Afghanistan, Army Lt. Gen. Cur­tis M. Scaparrot­ti, com­man­der of Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force Joint Com­mand, said that to do that, U.S. troops will require “a strong, capa­ble, lay­ered defense” with Afghan secu­ri­ty forces to inter­dict fight­ers cross­ing into Afghanistan from Pak­istan.

The gen­er­al said he and his Pak­istani coun­ter­parts have been work­ing toward a solu­tion.

“We are obvi­ous­ly work­ing with them to deter­mine how best to have an impact inside of that sanc­tu­ary,” he said. “We work very hard on our side to affect them in terms of inter­dic­tion, their caches and the move­ment [across the] bor­der.”

Scaparrot­ti, who reg­u­lar­ly trav­els through­out Afghanistan, said he seeks to improve Afghan-Pak­istani rela­tions by help­ing to estab­lish com­mon objec­tives.

“My intent now — I’ve been over to Pak­istan — is to improve that rela­tion­ship and work togeth­er where we do have a com­mon ene­my,” he said. “It’s in their inter­est, it’s in our inter­est as a coali­tion and Afghanistan’s inter­est to get bet­ter con­trol of the bor­der that Afghanistan and Pak­istan share.”

Insur­gents in Pak­istan are a threat to Pak­istan as much as they are a threat to Afghanistan or the Unit­ed States, Scaparrot­ti said. “And those are the kinds of dis­cus­sions that I have with my mil­i­tary coun­ter­parts,” he added.

The gen­er­al not­ed there was fre­quent com­mu­ni­ca­tion among coali­tion, Afghan and Pak­istani forces when he was com­man­der of ISAF’s Region­al Com­mand East.

“A year ago, it was com­mon, and has been for some time, we would have radio com­mu­ni­ca­tions cross-bor­der between coali­tion, Afghan and Pak­istan forces who face each oth­er across the bor­der,” he said. “We would have com­mu­ni­ca­tions between coun­ter­parts at brigade lev­el, coun­ter­parts at [region­al com­mand] or divi­sion lev­el.

“We [also] had quar­ter­ly plan­ning con­fer­ences where we would com­pare our plan­ning along the bor­der and per­haps do com­ple­men­tary oper­a­tions,” the gen­er­al added.

Scaparrot­ti acknowl­edged that com­mu­ni­ca­tion between U.S. and Pak­istani mil­i­tary forces was no longer “open” fol­low­ing the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

“About May of this past year, after the bin Laden raid, those rou­tine com­mu­ni­ca­tions just were not avail­able in most cas­es,” he said. “We had a dif­fi­cult time arrang­ing bor­der flag meet­ings. We had a dif­fi­cult time arrang­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions back and forth.”

Pak­istan began to show inter­est in renew­ing mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary com­mu­ni­ca­tions with U.S. forces in Afghanistan since “prob­a­bly about July-August,” Scaparrot­ti said.

“And I have made a trip there,” he added. “We’re attempt­ing to re-estab­lish the com­mu­ni­ca­tions along the bor­der, par­tic­u­lar­ly between units that are fac­ing each oth­er, Afghan and Pak­istan.”

It’s impor­tant, he said, “to ensure that, one, we can inter­dict cross-bor­der move­ment, but, two, that when there is a con­flict … we can react and the Pak­ista­nis can react, with­out fir­ing upon each oth­er.”

Scaparrot­ti said his focus will con­tin­ue to be on Afghanistan.

“I am, as an oper­a­tional com­man­der, focused on this side of the Afghan bor­der, and [those] oper­a­tions that I con­trol here,” he said.

Scaparrot­ti said he’s pleased with the progress made by Afghan secu­ri­ty forces and the momen­tum they have gained against the insur­gents. “My objec­tive is to main­tain that momen­tum, accel­er­ate the devel­op­ment of the [Afghan forces and] push them into the lead,” he said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)